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Roger McGuinn At the South Orange Performing Arts Center , Thursday, May 4th, 2017, Reviewed

Roger McGuinn more or less invented folk rock with the help of Crosby, Hillman and the Clarks with the Byrds. His jangling Rickenbacker 12-string was one of the signature sounds of the 60s. Later they branched out into more psychedelic sounds, then with the departure of Crosby and the arrival of Gram Parsons pivoted into country. McGuinn has continued to perform and record as a solo artist and folk archivist. He brought his one man show to the South Orange PAC Thursday night.

McGuinn opened each set with a Byrds favorite standing side stage with the Rickenbacker, opening the first set with “My Back Pages” and the second set with “Feel a Whole Lot Better” and “Chimes of Freedom”. He then sat down, surrounded by his beautiful Martins, a 12-string and a 7-string (no misprint-for you guitar gear heads, the G string is doubled an octave up) and a banjo. Mercifully, the banjo was used only once.

The format of the show was as much story telling as playing. McGuinn traced his career from pre-Byrds folkie days, to his meeting with Gene Clark and later David Crosby and the different incarnations of the band. The stories sounded very well rehearsed, but were interesting nonetheless. He is still a master of the guitar, and it was wonderful to hear his playing ringing out. Unfortunately the vocal mix wasn’t great, and the lyrics on the less familiar songs were hard to understand. McGuinn’s voice has held up well.

He played all the songs you’d want to hear, intermixed with folk songs from his early influences and some later projects. There was a great “Eight Miles High”, an audience participating “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and a double “Mr Tambourine Man”- acoustic a la Dylan and electric a la Byrds.

I was lucky enough, or quick enough, to get second row center seats. It was thrilling to see a living piece of rock and roll history right in front of me, still on top of his game.

Set 1
My Back Pages
Heartbreak Hotel
Well Well Well
The Bells of Rhymney
Rock Island Line
Brisbane Ladies
Rolling Down to Old Maui
Chestnut Mare
Russian Hill
Ballad of Easy Rider
Wasn’t Born to Follow
Mr Spaceman

Set 2
I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better
Chimes of Freedom
Old Blue
Pretty Boy Floyd
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
I Want to Hold Your Hand (brief snippet)
The Water Is Wide
You Showed Me
Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan version)
Mr. Tambourine Man (Byrds version)
Turn! Turn! Turn!
Eight Miles High

So You Want To Be A Rock’n’Roll Star
May the Road Rise to Meet You


1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this excellent article, which truly captured the experience. I was privileged to see Mr. McGuinn last night at the Tarrytown Music Hall, and it was one of the most intimate and entertaining concerts (if “concert” is even the correct word) I have ever attended. As you noted regarding the show you attended, his voice and signature guitar sound were in fine form. Hearing him play the “before-and-after” versions of “Mr. Tambourine Man” was a very special treat. He was engaging, enthusiastic, and modest, as he gave the audience a unique perspective into a wonderful period of folk/rock/etc. music history.

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